Loss of Iranian Oil is U.S. Diplomatic Flop

October 11, 1951 — Ray Tucker

The Mossadegh Project | May 7, 2019                         

Syndicated columnist Ray Tucker on U.S. and British diplomacy with Iran.

National Whirligig
Breakdown In Iran Blow To
Anglo-American Diplomacy


Ray Tucker WASHINGTON, Oct. 12 — The threatened and disastrous loss of Iranian oil and that key country’s possible tieup with Russia represent as complete a breakdown of Anglo-American diplomacy as the Communists conquest of China, in the opinion of informed diplomats, foreign business men and petroleum experts here and in London.

They maintain that the responsibility must be shared equally by Prime Minister Attlee and President Truman. [Clement Attlee and Harry S. Truman] The Labor politician waited too long to negotiate with Iranian Nationalists, fearing that a British surrender might cost votes in the October 25 election.

Despite urging by Henry Grady, former Ambassador to Iran, President Truman and Secretary Acheson refused to exert pressure on London to achieve a settlement. [U.S. Sec. of State Dean Acheson]

COMPROMISE — President Truman’s invitation to Premier Mohammed Mossadegh to visit Washington after presenting his case to the United Nations, indicates that he will make a last, desperate effort at a compromise. But disinterested observers fear that, as in China, the Administration has held off too long while hoping that “the dust would settle” in the Middle East.

Current negotiations involving Truman, British emissaries and Mossadegh may be the West’s last chance to prevent this strategic nation from falling into Stalin’s hands. [Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin] Such a happening would give the Kremlin the foothold it has coveted in this vital area for centuries—an objective the British have blocked successfully since the Crimean War against the Czars.

FAILURE — Washington’s failure to intervene more forcefully strikes world’s most Middle Eastern experts as incomprehensible. When the difficulties first arose it virtually ordered American petroleum interests to keep their hands off. It would not let them try to persuade their British opposites in the industry to adopt a more conciliatory attitude.

Although Washington rushed W. Averell Harriman to Teheran in an attempt to reach a peaceable solution, he was under definite instructions to take no action that would offend the British. When that became known in Teheran, his influence with the Mossadegh government became nil.

SETTLEMENT — British petroleum operators agree with American experts in this field that a practical program for reconciling Iranian demands with British pride could have been attained, if London had been more reasonable, and if Washington had insisted upon an arrangement several months ago. They believe there is still a possibility that an amicable settlement may be negotiated.

Under these tentative proposals, England would recognize the nationalization of the Iranian oil industry, including the fields, refinery facilities and future expansion. There should be full repayment of the British investment, with the amount to be fixed by arbitration, if necessary.

AUTHORITY — In view of the Iranians’ lack of personnel, management responsibilities should be lodged in a British, American or Dutch industrialist or board by act of the Iranian Parliament. Teheran has frequently given similar authority to foreigners called in to reorganize the country’s finances or other natural activities.

Since the British own the tanker fleet, have established a far-flung list of customers, and possess the know-how of salesmanship and distribution, they should be named as the marketing agent under a long-term contract.

In effecting such an agreement, President Truman would have to act more forcefully than he or Secretary Acheson have in the past. Indeed, they might have to seem to favor Mossadegh as against Attlee. But in view of the stakes involved—the start of possible World War III and Russian penetration of the bridgeland connecting three continents — it is felt that Washington ought to meet this challenge.

In view of the economic and military aid we are giving England, especially as we have permitted 10 Downing Street to dictate so many of our own foreign policies throughout the world, it is not believed that Messrs. Truman and Acheson should have any compunction about British sensitivity in this delicate and dangerous controversy.

Although there can he no definite decision until Mossadegh submits a possible American proposal to his government, this week’s talks in New York and here may register another Anglo-American defeat or victory in the world struggle between the Western powers and the Kremlin.

Alternate headlines:

Attlee and Truman Blamed For Muffing Iranian Problem

Note: A portion of the end of the column about Pres. Truman was not included.

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Related links:

Washington Worried About Middle East Oil Struggle | Ray Tucker, May 8, 1951

Mossadegh Pauses | The WORLD This WEEK, October 11, 1952

U.S. Urged to Back Up Britain in Refusing to Let Iran Humiliate the West | Oct. 15, 1952

MOSSADEGH t-shirts — “If I sit silently, I have sinned”

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